THE BLOG
12/28/2011 12:20 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Cardinal George and the KKK: Religious Extremists Live in the Midwest, Too

Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, is not the only person hiding prejudice in the heavy robes of religion, but he is a powerful leader in the Catholic Church, and therefore his words have more meaning and power than your average street preacher or member of the church choir.

In comparing the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan -- in his remarks about the potential disruption and inconvenience of the new Pride Parade route and start time -- Cardinal George has gone too far, and he should graciously apologize and step down from his post.

Dozens of local and national leaders and groups have spoken out against George, and some, too, are calling for him to step down. At the very least, they are asking for an apology.

Other religious facilities have long endured the Pride Parade passing their doors on Pride Sunday, with no "anti-religious" problems reported in four decades. In fact, religious groups, including gay Catholics, have been a part of Pride almost since it began. Ironically, the KKK did march against the Pride Parade in its early years, and many spiritual people helped counter their presence.

But Cardinal George could not let the parade pass by his Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Belmont Avenue. He fought back, and did so using a vile comparison to the KKK. The Parade will still pass by the church, just at a later time. The change in time really is not what upset most LGBT people; rather, it was what George said about the KKK. He told FOX News Chicago: "You don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism."

At this point, an apology is not enough. George has proven that he is out of touch with the progress of the LGBT movement in this city and country, and he should pass the torch to a new generation of Catholic leadership. Like Joseph Cardinal Bernardin before him, George has tried to use the church's power to keep back civil rights; Bernardin lobbied against Chicago's gay-rights bill in the 1980s, and George has spoken out against gay civil unions and women's rights.

The fact is that while many people seek out religion as a safe haven, where they can do good work to help their neighbors, often church leadership seeks to divide rather than bring people together. Given that this was Christmas season, George's remarks stung particularly hard. Enough is enough, and George should not be allowed to take this hateful approach and still be a leader in his church.

What is most upsetting when religious leaders speak out, and even lobby, against laws that protect LGBT people is that they do so on an uneven playing field. Most are wealthy beyond our imagination, own properties on valuable land, and yet they pay few, if any, taxes. This not only makes it more difficult to fund our schools, police and fire departments, and other public services, but it also places a heavier burden on every other citizen, religious or not. They get to have their free speech cake and not pay taxes, too.

Personally, I feel that if all religious groups paid their fair share of property, income, and other taxes, I wouldn't be as angry when they spoke out against my right to equality. We would be equals stating our own opinions. But when a religious leader like Cardinal George gets to have a large forum to amplify his prejudice, and he does so off all our taxpayer backs, it is an unfair system.

The initial separation of church and state in this country was based on a strong need to eliminate potential harassment and undue influence over religion. But the opposite has happened. Religious groups influence our politics, and they do so with impunity from the law, and from the tax system.